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Under the Radar’s Alternative Movie Awards 2019

Oscars? We don't need no stinkin' Oscars

Feb 22, 2019
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Sure, we rag on the Grammy’s a lot here, but they’ve always been pretty bad. The Oscars, however, have been rapidly circling the drain over the last several years. With all of the controversies surrounding the ceremony, the uninspired nominations, and a more-lackluster-than-usual assortment of films, this year’s Academy Awards may be among the least interesting we’ve seen in recent memory. Besides nominations for Black Panther and Roma, are there any others worth getting excited over? We don’t even get a host whose corny, canned jokes we can over-criticize on Twitter.

And so, we’ve decided to reject reality and substitute it with our own, launching Under the Radar’s own Alternative Movie Awards. We don’t have any statuettes or swag bags to hand out, but in our heart of hearts we know these will be the plaudits that Hollywood will really care about as they’re nursing hangovers on Monday morning.

We’re dropping all of the tired, old award categories – because, really, is there such a thing as a best picture, anyway? – and giving pretend trophies for whatever the hell we feel like. These are all movies, moments, filmmakers, and stars who may not have received recognition from Hollywood’s stuffy elite, but ones that we really believe are worth your time and attention.

And, so, the awards go to…

Best Awards Bait Film That Got No Major Nominations
First Man

Nothing would be more “Oscars” than Damien Chazelle, the La La Land auteur who suffered a historic humiliation two years ago, claiming Best Picture with a film celebrating the moon landing - and on its 50th anniversary! But First Man, Chazelle’s study of loss and determination disguised as a Neil Armstrong biopic, has resulted in minimal traction with audiences and awards voters. A staggering display of technical virtuosity depicting…well, a staggering display of technical virtuosity, First Man eschews the inspiration flag-waving we’ve come to expect from films about the space program. Instead, it’s a melancholy rumination on the idea that the greatest achievement in human history cannot assuage the grief incurred by the deepest personal loss. No wonder audiences didn’t show up. By Stephen Danay

Best Film Unfairly Disregarded Due to Genre
Paddington 2

As much as people are surely pining for a rewatch of Vice or Bohemian Rhapsody, no 2018 film was more enjoyable and warm-hearted than Paddington 2. With too much live action for the animated category, Paddington 2 offers clean, precise storytelling with complications centered around a theme prevalent in Oscar-bait: injustice. The film begins with Paddington beloved in his London neighborhood, working a series of odd jobs to save for a pop-up book. One night, however, the book is stolen, but the evidence points to Paddington. He’s jailed, and as his human family tries correcting this wrong, Paddington make prison life amenable, befriending intimidating prison chef, Knuckles, via his famous marmalade sandwich and spearheading an overhaul of the prison menu that brightens the dank enclosure. Still, his optimism wavers, as there are little clues pointing to the true thief, Phoenix Buchanan, who wanted the book for its secret treasure map. The joy of this book is in the supporting performances. Sally Hawkins and Hugh Bonneville as Paddington’s adopted parents, the Browns, but Hugh Grant’s fantastically slimy actor-turned-crook with Buchanan and Brendan Gleeson’s tough guy overcome by a sweet tooth ensures scenes heavy on plot or exposition disappear in the film’s overall storybook joy. By Shawn Hazelett

Best Biopic of a Doomed Cult Musician
Tie: Nico, 1988 & Blaze

Sorry, Bohemian Rhapsody. You may boast more classic rock radio staples, but we’ve got a two-way tie for the best film about a deceased musician and it doesn’t include you. Nico, 1988 follows the former Warhol muse and Velvet Underground singer’s sad, final years playing shitty clubs in Europe to small but rabid audiences. Many of Nico’s best-known, proto-Goth songs were re-imagined here by actress Trine Dyrholm (a former pop singer herself) and a few talented collaborators; her fiery performances stand as highpoints in a story about such a tragic character. Meanwhile, writer-director Ethan Hawke steps behind the camera to focus on a figure little known beyond the dedicated followers of outlaw country music: Blaze Foley. With an outstanding performance from first-time actor Ben Dickey, Blaze takes a more lyrical path through vignettes from Foley’s life, boldly tiptoeing around story beats – such as Foley’s mysterious shooting outside a bar – that less artful biopics would’ve beaten like a dead horse. It’s a movie capable of turning even those completely unfamiliar with his songs into an instant fan of the departed cult troubadour. By Austin Trunick

Most Bonkers Tonal Shift In The Third Act Award
Sorry To Bother You

Boots Riley packed a lot of timely (yet also, sadly, perennial) concerns into his feature-length directorial debut: wage slavery, gentrification, post-internet privacy concerns, the ease with which a desperate person can become the worst kind of capitalist co-conspirator. None of that should surprise anyone who’s followed Riley’s long-running hip-hop group, The Coup, whose albums are populated with many of the same characters and concerns.

Even seasoned Riley aficionados, though, may have been thrown for a loop by the film’s final third, venturing as it does into (SPOILER ALERT) seriously unsettling sci-fi territory, complete with no shortage of mutant horse-human cock. For some, this tonal shift was a shark-jump too far, a free-flying chunk of surreal absurdism that just didn’t track with the rest of the film. For many of us, though, for whom the film’s other concerns were particularly visceral, it seemed like the logical (if gonzo) endpoint, and both Riley and star Lakeith Stanfield deserve all the accolades for steering it all home in one piece. By Dustin Krcatovich

Best ‘80s Movie Released in 2018

With apologies to Ready Player One —and fewer apologies to the Bruce Willis Death Wish movie—Mandy both harkens back to the 80s vigilante cinema and is a reminder of ‘90s, unstoppable-Nicolas Cage-action cinema. The plot is simple: Nicolas Cage’s wife is murdered by a cult of Jesus freaks, inspiring him to go on a rampage, killing the cult members one by one. An under appreciated quality about the film is in contrast to 80s vigilante movies—where the hero isn’t just against evil-doers but an irrational bureaucracy that allows them to walk the streets—Nicolas Cage bypasses law enforcement. In a scene tailor-made for Nicolas Cage, after his wife is murdered, he walks into his bathroom in his underwear and a bottle of vodka and starts weeping, but quickly, his sobs evolve into primitive, bloodthirsty grunts and he’s full-on maniac. Mandy doesn’t imply a liberal justice system results in crazy people, doesn’t require a justification for violence, and Nicolas Cage certainly needs no justification to go balls-out. And we’re all better for it. By Shawn Hazelett

Best ‘90s Movie Released in 2018
Izzy Gets the F*ck Across Town

With its fast-paced editing, blaring riot grrl soundtrack, unabashedly crass dialogue and gratuitous use of splitscreen, Izzy Gets the F*ck Across Town feels as much like an early ‘90s Miramax release as any film released in the last several years. (Hell, the characters even fall into sudden, f-bomb laden philosophical debates just like they’re part of early-career Tarantino or Kevin Smith movies.) With an energetic pace and a commanding performance from the soon-to-be-a-star Mackenzie Davis, Izzy is the sort of throwback we’ll welcome with open arms. By Austin Trunick

The Sixth Annual Maya Deren ‘What Is Reality?’ Honors Award
Madeline’s Madeline

Director Josephine Decker had already bent the brains of festival crowds and post-mumblecore film nerds with her synapse-frying previous features Butter on the Latch and Thou Wast Mild and Lovely, but Madeline’s Madeline displayed a marked advance in Decker’s craft. Miranda July was the (relative) marquee name to get people in the door — and her performance as a harried, emotionally damaged stage mother is fantastic — but newcomer Helena Howard steals the show as the film’s titular character, a precocious and frightening young actress whose struggles with mental illness blur the line between acting and dissociation. In scenes which alternated between the harrowing and the hallucinatory, Madeline’s Madeline pushed us through a psychological wringer, forcing us to call into question not just the legitimacy and morality of “confessional” art, but the exploitation inherent in storytelling, up to and including the movie we were watching. By Dustin Krcatovich

Best Self-Reflective Existential Breakdown
First Reformed

More than forty years after penning the script for Taxi Driver, Paul Schrader returns with another film about a scarred, solitary man adrift in an indifferent, uncaring world. Trading urban decay for the wintery desolation of upstate New York, First Reformed stars Ethan Hawke as Rev. Toller, a well-meaning priest facing physical and spiritual destruction as he attempts to mentor a disturbed young man and his pregnant wife. An unflinching look at the balance between hope and despair, First Reformed is one of the first films to honestly address the impending disaster of climate change and the psychological toll it is taking on the generations that will experience it. By Stephen Danay

Best Horror Film (That Wasn’t a Horror Film)
The Miseducation of Cameron Post

When teenage Cameron Post (Chloe Grace Moretz) is caught in a moment of passion with her secret girlfriend, her zealously religious guardians ship her off to a conversion camp to be “fixed.” A well-made coming-of-age tale told from an uncommon perspective, the setting of The Miseducation of Cameron Post scarier than any we saw in 2018’s crop of actual horror films. The characters’ sense of isolation, entrapment, and actual danger within the camp is constant. We previously compared the film to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and The Shawshank Redemption, both comparisons we’ll continue to stand by as the film lingers in our memories. By Austin Trunick

Best Movie We Don’t Have the Courage to Watch Again

Hereditary was not only the scariest film of the year, but easily the most unnerving horror movie since It Follows. It’s also one we’re not eager to re-visit any time soon (if at all.) It’s not so much because of the jump scares (of which there are a few) or the spooky atmosphere (which rarely breaks), but the unsettling imagery it flashes with surprising restraint, some of which has been burned into our retinas since the film was released in early summer. Horror has never been a genre shy about getting visceral, but Hereditary’s gore walks a line between real and surreal, which might be what makes it so much harder to shake. By Austin Trunick

Directorial Debut from an Actor that (Surprise!) is Actually Very Good
The Party’s Just Beginning

Karen Gillan’s more than earned her right to coast on her success, spinning a beloved stint on Doctor Who into supporting roles in blockbusters such as Jumanji and Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s even more exciting, however, to see her channeling some of her newfound industry power into a directorial debut as well-formed as The Party’s Just Beginning. Also written and starring Gillan, the film follows a young Scottish woman who loses herself in drugs and casual sex to dull the pain she feels in the wake of her best friend’s suicide. Shot and edited with high energy and accompanied by a pulsing soundtrack, it’s a highly impressive and personal-feeling first feature and one that shows Gillan has as much promise off-camera as on. It’s a crime that this has been so overlooked. By Austin Trunick

Best Wound Cauterization Scene

Coralie Fargeat’s Revenge is a brutal, bloody reclamation of the rape/revenge genre. In the film’s most grueling scene, protagonist Matilda Lutz anesthetizes herself with peyote, cuts open a beer can, heats it over a fire and presses it to a wound on her stomach. The phoenix-shaped burn scar the beer logo leaves behind is anything but subtle, but that’s never been much of a concern for the genre. The scene is the psychedelic lynchpin of the film, transforming Lutz from a scared, battered woman to a blood-soaked instrument of vengeance. By Stephen Danay

Best Surefire Cult Movie to Somehow Still Not Have Distribution (Come On, People)
7 Stages to Achieve Eternal Bliss By Passing Through the Gateway Chosen by the Holy Storsh

Okay, perhaps we’re cheating by including this here as it hasn’t technically been released, but this dark comedy (and its long-winded name) charmed us so much out of last year’s Tribeca Film Festival that we’re shocked it hasn’t made its way to a wider audience yet. Kate Micucci and Sam Huntington star as a young couple newly moved to Los Angeles; the low rent on their apartment feels too good to be true, and it turns out there’s reason behind that. Years earlier, a charismatic cult leader (What We Do In the Shadows’ Taika Waititi) committed suicide in the apartment’s bathtub, and ever since then his followers have been breaking in at night to ceremonially off themselves in the same way. With original music by the Flaming Lips and a hilarious supporting turn from Dan Harmon as a gruff detective, this nutty-ass movie is just begging for midnight screenings on college campuses. By Austin Trunick

Best Final Scene
Lean On Pete

Following in the footsteps of Kelly Reichardt and Debra Granik, Andrew Haigh’s Lean on Pete explores the thin line between working class and poverty via Charlie, a lonely fifteen year-old boy, and the broken down titular race horse he befriends. Heart-wrenching and honest without ever resorting to maudlin cruelty, the film traces the main characters’ journey from Oregon to Wyoming, their losses and tragedies mirroring those of the modern American West. The final long tracking shot follows Charlie as he jogs through the streets of Laramie while Bonnie Prince Billy’s elegiac “The World’s Greatest” plays on the soundtrack. It’s the perfect note of hard-won hope to end the film, reminding the audience that Charlie is still running, but now on his own terms. By Stephen Danay


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TV Zion apk
March 10th 2019

First Reformed is pretty awesome. Now one can use TVZion app to watch all movies and shows for free.